Frag for Cancer raises money for Canadian Cancer Society

Approx. 400 people gamed over the weekend to support the charity

“Evan Hatfield and Phillip Warren versus Keith Lehwald and Matt Richards!”

“Matt’s still on Melee”

“Son of a bitch.”

That was the voice of a tournament organizer calling out for contestant’s at the Super Smash Brothers Wii U (colloquially known as “Smash 4”), at the tenth annual Frag for Cancer which happened on the weekend of Nov. 6 to 8.

This event would see competitors signing up for a huge variety of games, from traditional fighting games and shooters to MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battlefield Arenas) which are the center of e-sports today. In each of these, the participants’ fees would go toward supporting the Canadian Cancer Society, who were to receive all proceeds from the event.

In the past, the Frag for Cancer events have risen over a total of $97,000, with 2014 specifically bringing in $17,000. Early expectations of this event is that it will break all prior records based on the known registration as of mid-afternoon on Saturday.

This growth would also be demonstrated within the growth of participation at the event. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the “Smash Room” (Student Union Building 224).

Playing both the classic “Super Smash Brothers Melee” for the Nintendo Gamecube, as well as the current iteration of the series, Super Smash Brothers Wii U, the room was full of individuals competing in both singles and doubles play. The room itself was crowded significantly beyond capacity, with over 110 participants having signed up to participate in the event, much more than the 60 or 70 which they were expecting.

Growth like this was hectic for tournament organizers like Evan Shabshove, in charge of organizing Melee specifically. But despite this, he was in good spirits about the event.

“It’s been going good,” he said. “I’ve been getting a lot of help from a lot of people besides just me. I can’t imagine it going any worse than it has been.”

The tech setup for the event was especially interesting. For Smash specifically, it generally is played on older CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) televisions as opposed to more modern LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) sets, and while seven sets were borrowed from the local store, Games People Play, others were provided by the community at large. Shabshove sees this as an aspect to the community which has developed around the game here in Halifax.

“We have at least like five extra setups as well,” he said. “Tons and tons of people brought a full CRT and Gamecube as well, and it’s the same with the Smash 4 guys. It’s good to see that everyone is helping out as well.”

The unique tech demands of the event were not limited to just the Smash games. The main competition of the event would happen in the McInnis room, with 205 people involved in Bring Your Own Computer tournaments in games like CounterStrike: Global Offensive and Defence of the Ancients. To support this, the expertise of Lan ETS from Montreal’s École de Technologie Supérieure would be brought in, who use this experience to help him prepare for the École’s own event April, which will require a similar setup.

This growth was not purely limited to electronic events. This year would mark the second year in which the trading card game Magic: The Gathering would have a presence at Frag for Cancer, and growth was seen as well. This with a 58 person six-round tournament in the “standard” format of the game, which would take the entire day to play out, with a similar attendance expected for the “modern” event on Sunday. Magic: The Gathering specifically has an interesting relationship with its player base, as the game itself receives significant support and structure for competitive play by its publisher, Wizards of the Coast.

This event would be a mixture of both the official competitive level and of recognizing the charity nature of the event. But the local community was both willing and able to support this kind of tournament, working with the organizers of Frag for Cancer, local stores for prize support, and local judges to organize the event.

Overall, this event is hugely different from its origins. Launched ten years ago informally, as a 20-30 person LAN event in the Dunn Building, it now a major event.

Yazeed Sobaih, one of the founders of the event and the head organizer has seen this growth throughout its many years. Fundamentally, he sees that the event itself is based in terms of community, of not only himself and the others who organize the event as a whole, but in the scopes of individual games within Halifax. In each of these, if there is enough people and energy in these, then it can become involved and it can become a force for charity.

Another unique aspect for Frag for Cancer is the way in which it is not profits, but proceeds of the event which go directly to the Canadian Cancer Society.

“It’s something that we pride ourselves on, it’s the matter that making sure that 100 percent of anything that comes into the event, whether merchandise or entry fees, all gets donated,” Sobaih said. “The only way we can do that is through the generosity of our sponsors.”

This event is hardly unique in terms of gamers and gaming contributing to charity. Over the same weekend, the Extra Life gaming marathon, streamed online by individuals from all over the world, raised money for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, as will the coming Desert Bus for Hope charity marathon which starts on November 14th for the Child’s Play Charity. Sobiah sees this growth as only a good thing.

“When we started ten years ago, it was almost unheard of, it was unique and it was why people decided to come out,” he said. “You have your runs, your walks. But there were people who don’t do those runs or walks, and this was us tapping into that potential. It shows that gamers are a unique demographic, and that their voices can be heard. [And] that they’re very generous. I’m thrilled and excited to see that this is how it has developed, and it’s exciting to see how people have been inspired.”

The money raised and attendance are not known until later in the week of Nov. 9, but it looks to be over $22,000 and 400 people in attendance in some capacity.

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William Coney

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